National

Nepali women duped and sent to China for work want to return home. Nobody knows how—or when.

- Tsering D Gurung, Kathmandu

Jul 10, 2019-

After finding out they were duped by the employment agency that sent them to work at a factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, a group of Nepali women had reached out to officials at the Nepal Embassy in Beijing asking for help. Among the 44 women, half of them want to return home.

Nearly a month later, they are still stuck in China.

“They told us representatives from the manpower agency will come, and we should talk to them first,” Sumitra Baraili, one of the 44 women, told the Post. “It’s already been five days since the owner of the manpower agency came here, but we have no idea what’s going on.”

Embassy officials told the Post they have informed the Department of Foreign Employment about the situation and that it’s the department’s responsibility to ensure that the employment agency repatriates the women. 

“After we received a call from one of the women, we sent a team to the facility to investigate and found out all their complaints were genuine,” said Subash Lamsal, deputy chief of mission in Beijing. “We then sent a report to the Department of Foreign Employment, informing them about how the company had violated its agreement, and asked the department to direct the agency to repatriate the women.”

The women, many of whom are in their early 20s and come from across Nepal, arrived at the factory located in Dandong, which borders North Korea, in May. Each woman had paid nearly Rs 100,000 to the Gaushala-based Compass Recruitment for their jobs.

They were told that they would be working in the packing section of a garment factory and were promised a $400 monthly salary, eight-hour workdays, one weekly day off, room and board, and medical insurance. On the very first day of work, the women said they realised they had been misled.

“We were placed in the stitching section, even though the manpower agency specifically told us we’d be working in the packing section,” said Pampa Chapagain of Morang. “We were also made to work from 7am to 6:30pm, which is against the agreement.”

They were provided only two meals a day and eight women had to share one room. Despite the circumstances, they carried on because they thought they would at least be getting paid a fair wage, said Baraili. 

“But when we received our first pay, we realised we had been cheated,” she said. 

According to the women, they were paid $50, less than 15 percent of what was agreed upon in the contract, a copy of which was obtained by the Post. And when they began questioning their supervisor, who is Chinese, about the pay, they were told that they did not work as quickly as their North Korean colleagues, Baraili said. 

The women believe the two companies had made a secret pact to pay the employees a much lower wage than what was agreed upon in the contract. 

Bholanath Guragain, the spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Employment, said his department had summoned Giriraj Ghimire, the owner of Compass Recruitment, immediately upon receiving the report from the Nepal Embassy. 

“He assured us that he would go to China, solve the problem and come back,” Guragain told the Post. “He said he would make arrangements for those who wanted to stay and would bring back those who wanted to return.”

Embassy officials, however, said there is no alternative but to bring all the women back home and take action against the manpower agency. 

“This company has violated its agreement,” said Lamsal. “There is nothing it can do to fix this, except return the women to Nepal, pay their money back and then offer them compensation.”

If the employment agency is reluctant to bring the women back, Lamsal said, the foreign employment department should use the company’s security deposit to pay for their flights. 

The Post’s attempts to reach Ghimire for comment via WeChat were unsuccessful.

According to some of the women, Ghimire, the owner, who is currently in China, has been threatening those who are speaking out against the agency. 

“When I told him I wanted to return home, he said he wouldn’t return my money,” said Jamuna BK, one of the women currently stuck in China. “He told me, ‘if you can file a case against me, then go ahead.”

Of the 44 women, more than half of them have stopped going to work.

“We can’t stay here,” said Baraili. “We just want to go home.”

Correction: The women were promised $400 a month and paid $50. In the summary of the print version of this story, we inaccurately said the women were paid $15.

Published: 10-07-2019 10:51

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